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Friday, August 10, 2007

Will my children follow a religion?

I am not much of a prayer person. I pray, but not regularly. It is the husband who does it every morning and night and before and after every critical or important event. Ojas and Tejas ensure that they accompany him on his morning puja and self administer the vibhooti (sacred ash). They even say “jai jai” on seeing any idol and touch the ground with their forehead – copying whatever their Dadda does.
To my husband religion is something from where he draws strength and confidence and peace of mind. To me religion is faith in an energy which is extremely powerful. My religion is adulterated with science and logic. While my logical mind tries to break free, my emotional mind wants to hold forth as to me religion, Hinduism to be specific, is a manifestation of all the mythological stories I have grown up with. I try to attribute the process of creation and evolution to the trinity who upholds existence, thereby giving it a form. Or may be God is top management or CEO who knows what is best for his organization- the Universe. Therefore I dare not defy him. I strongly believe that everything happens for the good or there is a lesson in everything or be happy to escape with something minor, it could have been worse. Some believe it is God who is holding the strings and preventing disaster. I am scared to disbelieve God – my human brain fears retribution. And if I cannot control it I choose to leave it to the Top Guy- a way of saving myself the trouble and worries.
Mine is a mixed marriage. While both are Hindus, there is this great North & South divide. Everything we do is different from what they do while the reasons may be same, whether it is wealth or harvest or health of husband or brother!
To me religion is a form of bonding and stability through a series of rituals or traditions. A prayer format stresses importance to sequence, purity and methodology of the rituals. While my logical mind tries to define reasons for it, I still follow them because this is what I bring to the table handed down by my family, hoping that my progeny will adapt them and thereby I will live on in their minds. My logical mind says you can pray anywhere, yet I have a place designated for the puja because I am big on format, methodology and 5-S. Everything has a place and a place for everything. To me the puja place is a place where we are channelising our positive energy through the medium we choose- idol, incense, bells, ash etc.
At the risk of being blasphemous, I am really not very hot on the vibhooti or sacred ash while my husband swears by it. So I dislike it when it is forced upon me.
I don’t know what will be the kids’ orientation towards religion- staunch, tolerant or middle path. But I have never tried to steer them towards mine at this age and neither would I prefer them steered towards hubby’s. Whether it is by gestures or symbols. So I don’t like the sacred ash being plastered across their forehead for every little rhyme or reason. I want them to understand and make up their mind before religiously following anything set for them. If they ultimately choose to do it because they want to do it for their own reasons, I am all for it. But I would never like them to be forced to do it for the sake of approval or not hurting their Dad or Grandparents. I would not want them to choose religion as an excuse and hide behind it rather take it as a source of strength.
My husband follows everything set by his Mom as regards prayers is concerned. For him she is the authority and he his unbending if I try to bring about a change by forcing some logic into it or bringing in my own interpretation of it. That is because to him I am not a complete believer and therefore I do not understand or know. But as a family unit I would like to have something defined by both of us together.
In the North, it is the “ghar ki Lakshmi” – the wife or the daughter or the daughter in law who performs the prayers and there is the concept of any prayer being incomplete if the wife does not accompany on the right side of the husband whereas in the South it is the Head of the house- the provider or the son – the perpetrator of the family name who does it. Naturally I expected to be an important entity in the entire thing post marriage but realized that I was the odd job person because prayer is not a woman’s domain. As long as I am supplying the material for the puja I am needed otherwise not.
I would like to change that because to me the entire paraphernalia is to bring about a sense of celebration, nostalgia and togetherness while thanking God or the Supreme Creator or our Luck for all the good that has happened to us. I want religion to be inclusive.
I will take all measures to teach Ojas & Tejas what I know on Hinduism by way of stories or books or customs and festivals and I am sure hubby will do the same. Having said this, I want them to know what other religions talk of. Ultimately they should imbibe the positive teachings of all religions and format their own set of beliefs. Then there will be ownership.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you. Being rigid about religious ritual and forcing it on one's kids may provide a sense of security, but it closes off the mind in other ways too.

Mosilager said...

for me religion is an ancient way of making sense of the world. It has now been superseded by critical thinking and experimentation. It's fairly clear that those civilizations that embraced science have a higher standard of living than those that didn't, so I figure that any assertion religion makes that cannot be proven in the real world should be sent to the dustbin.

Anyway, congratulations on letting your children make their own decisions. That's usually the best way.

The Visitor said...

Well thought out and reasoned post. *falls at your feet chanting jai jai* :)

Here you are faced with a tricky situation - defining what is default condition wrt religion while bringing up children. If the default is defined as allowing the children to do as they please in religion related issues, then the default is in favour of your stance, whereas if the default conditions is defined as asking them to pray, until they are old enough to make their own decisions, then the situation is in favour of the husbands stance. So there is definitely one 'winner' only. (Of course married life is not a competition, but sub-consciously we tend to think of it that way).
All said and done, irrespective of how you choose to bring up your children, I am sure they would go through phases of belief, doubt and then reach status quo with a leaning towards one or the other position, as they grow. So don't worry.
There are instances where the parents are total believers and atleast one child has grown up to be a non-believer.
As long as you are able to inculcate in them a questioning attitude with an open mind, they would be able to discern things for themselves.

Something to Say said...

I sooo get you on this. Coming from a mixed house myself (like your twins - our parents share the same religion but from different states). Having been in that position my view is this - religion is something for which you need to put in the roots when the child is small and yet old enough to understand 5-6years in my view is ideal. The logic, rationale, understanding all come much later when the child grows up, reads, questions, argues and then accepts. At least that was my metamorphosis. Some parents wish it to be by blind acceptance some wish for the child to rationally accept it. To each their own.
But this is an important area of a child's development - and I'm so glad you wrote about it.

Collection Of Stars said...

Hey Itchy! That was thought provoking and I go by what you think. My husband is the pooja doing type whereas I take a more logical approach :) But I am sure both of us would not try to impose anything on KT. For now, she seems to enjoy all the rituals that we follow.

GettingThereNow said...

Very impressively put together! I agree with everything you wrote. I have done a similar post (well I discussed religion and my concept of it along with other things) - Give me your opinion please?

Still searching said...

I completely share your viewpoint on this topic! Yes, religion should be inclusive, should not be forced, and should be understood instead of merely followed for the sake of obedience or fear!

On another note, I realise that it seems it is possible for 2 people with such diverse outlooks to be married happily! Thats nice to see! Though I'm not quite so sure how you deal with hubby's mom dictating the religious proceedings while your opinion is not considered much... makes u seem like a very nice understanding and adjustning person...

The Visitor said...

Itchy - I forgot to mention that they look real cute with the vibhoothi. Like miniature - adults. :)

Hip Grandma said...

religion is something personal.If they imbibe the right values it is as good as being spiritual.All religions ultimately lead to that only

Minka said...

Hi ,

Wah !Wah ! A woman after my own words. But chill yaar !! Let the kids enjoy the rituals etc - there will come a time when they will make a choice. It's taken ages ( 2 years !) for me to get it across to my husband and his parents that while I am all for rituals ( in moderation ) , I absolutely forbid my son to sport any embellishments of being Iyer when he goes out. I do not think there is any need to wear your religious leanings on your sleeve - it serves absolutely no purpose. To me , religion is a personal thing that guides you spiritually and teaches you between right and wrong.

Lavs said...

Hey, even I wrote about religion. What a coincidence!

Itchingtowrite said...

anon- yes, that yearning desire to make our kids like us makes us do this perhaps

mosilager- your 1st comment on my blog! thanks! you are right abt sheer logic and reason being behind all those rituals. the fear of god makes one do it right.

visitor- marriage is one place where it is always win win situation. the whole concept of better half makes it possible. husband's victory is wife's and wife's is husband's. hurting one's spouse is like cutting off the nose to spite the face.As parents,we can guide our kids till they are old enuf to decide for themselves. I am sure a child is never old enuf for the parents but a time comes when parents begin to step back in certain matters and i feel religion shoul be one of them. u can't force your kid to become a believer and neither can u force them to remounce "God". it is their own orientation that will decide for them ultimately. Until then, we do some hand holding. thanks fo rthe compliment.- true mix- kurta is very north indian, vibhooti very south indian!! they will ultimately blend it for their parents!

STS- u said it my way! the very reason i like them being taught is that a strong foundation is built. later whether they take it or leave it, it is up to them

Collectn of stars- all about enjoying it right! KT enjoys it and is fascinated by it therefore she likes doing it! kids are so honest abt their approach. she is not forced to do it.

2 cents- hey i did comment on that one when u wrote it. anyway, isn't religion all abt tolerence and balanicng!!

still searching- it takes all kinds to make the world. the moment we realise this we start being more tolerant. i am not the meek DIL if that is the impresison u r getting. i manage to have my way onother things which are more critical to me!! since prayer is supposedly one domain where i am not great and particular i let them hav their way!!
hip grandma- right on.. all religion ultimately teach the same thing unless distorted by the fanatics

minka- on teh dot! that is why i dont like the ash and other embellishments as u call it. not necessary to get obsessed by it and imagine that no trouble can come your way if u apply it all over your head!

lavs- read yours. very well put. summarising the ironies of religion. i guess ultimately it is your comfort and a personal choice. no one has a right to question u

lumi said...

Sorry for being a week late to the party. I also had an interfaith marriage (it ended but not because of religion) to a Muslim. I was raised a Christian. My mother was a very faithful person but didn't feel the necessity of running off to a church or to seek religious counsel at every turn. She said she had her Bible which she read daily and prayed. She always used to tell me that God is everywhere and not just within walls. She never really pushed me to go to church or engage in religious functions and didn't question my choice to walk away from being part of an organized church when I was a teenager.

I have always been fascinated with different religions and I don't think there is any single right faith. I have studied Islam, Judaism, and Christianity extensively and the more I learn the more in common they have. Because I have a large contingent of Indian friends now and have had the good fortune of visiting India I have become well acquainted with Hindu beliefs.

I've never forced my daughter to go to a particular religious house of worship or engage in religious activities. We and my extended "family" of friends celebrate Diwali, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Passover, Hanukkah, Ramadan, the Eids, etc. We all respect each other's beliefs and know that God is celebrated every time you show love.

artnavy said...

very thought provoking- but i more or less agree with minka